A trip to Universal Orlando Resort is tops on the list of Harry Potter fan's vacation destinations. The major fans have been wowed by the immersive theming of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which spans across both Universal parks in Orlando. It includes Hogsmeade at the Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. You must by a Park-to-Park ticket to be able to visit both parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With this ticket guests can travel between the two areas on the Hogwarts Express replica that appears in the film series.
Castle towers over Hogsmeade village, and inside the castle is the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. You can also ride the Dragon Challenge dual roller coaster and the small-but-fun Flight of the Hippogriff. You can buy chocolate frogs in Honeydukes, or robes in Dervish and Banges. At Universal Studios, a section of Potter's London has been recreated in Diagon Alley featuring shops, dining experiences, and the amazing ride Escape from Gringotts. There is so much to do to immerse you into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Below are a few tips to help you maximize the most of your trip. As always if you have any questions or need our travel agency, please don't hesitate to reach out.
1. Arrive Early
It sounds simple. It really is. Show up early to the park and be ready to get moving! The lines to those big time rides will only get longer as the day goes on. If you only have one day in the parks, then I suggest springing for the express pass to bypass all the lines. As a reminder, if you purchase your tickets from an authorized Universal agent (such as Magic Dust Vacations...wink) you receive early entry to the park.
2. Enjoy all that's around you
It's about more than just the rides. There is so much detail in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley to see and do. Yes, the rides are awesome, but the attention to detail really makes the fans feel like they have stepped right into the movie. Two amazing details not to overlook:
People really disappear through Platform 9 3/4. If you're taking the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross Station. Stand back from the entrance to the tunnel leading to the train. The people in line ahead will appear to pass through a solid brick wall to Platform 9 3/4. This is easy to miss so pay close attention. Note that you can't see the effect as you walk through the tunnel, but those in line behind you will see it. There's a magic phone booth outside the train station. The red phone box outside of King's Cross Station makes for a great photo op, but few tourists will actually try to use the phone. If you dial MAGIC (62442), you'll reach the Ministry of Magic.
3. Take part in the magic...buy a wand!
Many Harry Potter fans rush to Ollivander's to buy a wand, only to find a long line simply to enter the shop. This line leads to a one-person live performance inside the small shop where only a few dozen people at a time can fit, hence the slow-moving queue. Ollivander's is an awesome shop. In this shop a costumed keeper picks one child from the audience for wand selection. A really cool show takes place, as the wand chooses the child, not the reverse. This can be a lengthy ceremony, but is really cool if you have the time to spare. You can also buy wands from carts just outside Hogwarts Castle and in Diagon Alley. Once you have your wan, grab a map and go explore the land while casting spells.
4. Do some shopping!
As for souvenir shopping, guests at the Harry Potter theme park should definitely visit all the shops you'll find familiar from the books:
-Honeydukes and Sugarplum's Sweetshop for candy
-Zonko's joke shop
-Exchange money at Gringotts (you can keep for souvenir or actually spend in the park)
-Owl Post, where you can send mail
-Dervish and Banges which is crammed with robes, scarves, t-shirts and all manner of merchandise for sale, and also has delightful details such as a caged biting book.
Note: all of these shops are small and can get very crowded. Try shopping at Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, near Hogwarts Castle. Its a much bigger store with some different merchandise. FYI, Wands are only available in the Harry Potter theme park itself.
5. What to eat or drink?
-Hogsmeade houses The Three Broomsticks. This is an English style tavern where you can order signature drinks—butterbeer, pumpkin juice, pear cider—along with a special Potter-themed menu including fish and chips, shepherd's pie, soup, salads, plus desserts such as apple pie and chocolate trifle. There's also a children's menu with favorites such as mac and cheese, fish and chips, and chicken fingers. Also inside the Three Broomsticks is Hogs Head, where grownups can try a special Harry Potter alcoholic brew.The outdoor eating area behind The Three Broomsticks is a quieter area to rest and sit down for a little bit. If some members of your party want to ride coasters, others can relax in this area which can be reached without walking through the restaurant.
In Diagon Alley, the Leaky Cauldron is a puvb serving traditional British food including cottage pie, fish and chips, and bangers and mash, in addition to butterbeer and other signature drinks. There's also a children's menu with staples such as chicken fingers and mac and cheese. Head to Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley for scoops of ice cream. Continental breakfast items and pastries and drinks are available.
We hope these tips will help you have a great day in an awesome themed land! If you have any questions or need help planning your next trip, please reach out to us and we can help!